Miller lands ‘perfect’ gold in combined
February 22, 2010
WHISTLER CREEKSIDE, British Columbia – If Bode Miller had any questions left to answer about his big-race abilities, he doesn’t anymore. Miller shredded Sunday’s slalom leg of the super combined to earn his first Olympic gold medal and record fifth overall.
"When I passed the line, I did my normal thing and stood for a second and I was like, ‘That was unbelievable, I can’t ask for anything more,’" Miller said. "For my first Olympic gold, it was absolutely perfect."
Super combined involves one run of downhill and one run of slalom, with the gold medal awarded to the fastest overall time.
Exhausted from a training crash in slalom, an ailing ankle and medals festivities, Miller said he got a rush of inspiration before his second run, in which he zipped past Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic by .33 seconds for gold.
"Within 10 seconds before the race, I started to get that bouncy feeling where everything hones in," he said. "I started to get the shivers a little bit and that energy. That’s what I’ve had in all the races leading up until now and I knew it was what I needed in the slalom."
Miller’s five medals have come in four different disciplines. He received two silvers in Salt Lake – giant slalom and traditional two-run slalom combined – and has scooped up an Olympic Neapolitan in Vancouver with downhill bronze, super G silver, and super combined gold. The men’s giant slalom is set for Tuesday, and slalom will conclude the alpine schedule Saturday.
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Miller was seventh after the downhill, .76 seconds behind Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, gaining an early advantage on the winning split but losing time in the latter half.
"I thought Bode put down a good run in the downhill," said U.S. Head Coach Sasha Rearick. "He had to fight to get some time (back), which I thought was good. So he just goes out there and skis like he can, he doesn’t have to think about it too much, just go as hard as you can."
The U.S. Team went 1-2-3 in the slalom, with Ted Ligety of Park City coming from 15th to fifth with the day’s fastest second run, followed by a sensational performance from Will Brandenburg, who crashed into the netting in Saturday’s training but bounced back to finish 10th in his Olympic debut with the second fastest slalom of the day.
"He got up and he said, ‘I’m going, for sure,’" Rearick said of Brandenburg. "He was just battling through some pains. He put down a solid run (in the downhill), and in the slalom, it was fantastic."
Miller had to dig deep for his slalom, the day’s third fastest.
"It was completely fast on the bottom," Miller said. "On that last pitch, my legs started to feel wobbly, and it didn’t even feel like I was looking at the gates anymore.
"I knew I had a great run going, but I don’t know how I got those last 15 gates through the finish. It was just willpower. My legs were completely shot. On a run like that, you’re functioning on inspiration and willpower. It’s not muscle or anything deliberate, it’s things you’re drawing up from somewhere else."
Ligety, the 2006 combined gold medalist in Torino, was almost perfect in slalom, recovering well from a mistake near the finish. He said he wasn’t thrilled to finish just outside the medals, but he can take something from this success going forward.
"I had a great slalom run and I feel like I skied well, and I definitely felt like I had more speed there too," he said. "I’m happy with that, and it gives me confidence for the slalom.
"Giant slalom is really my big focus here because I feel like that’s my best medal chance. I haven’t been on the podium for a while in the combined and only had one podium in the super G, so to really expect a podium out of those was a little bit of a stretch."
Ligety said Miller is "tailor-made" for the super combined.
"He’s one of the best downhill skiers in the world, and he shows moments of brilliance in slalom, and he did that today."
Super G bronze medalist Andrew Weibrecht capped an impressive result for the U.S. Team with yet another strong slalom to land 11th.
Official Results 2010 Winter Olympic Games Whistler Creekside, BC – Feb. 21
Men’s Super Combined